Expert advice on 'West Side Story'

Darleene Barrientos

What do you get when you mix a community theater group's actors and

an Academy Award-winning star as their coach?

Find out Friday when the Stepping Stone Players presents its

production of "West Side Story," after weeks of coaching help from

George Chakiris, who played both "Riff" and "Bernardo" in previous

stage and film versions of the love story. Chakiris won an Academy

Award for best supporting actor for his performance as Bernardo in

the 1961 film.

"You can see how much they care," Chakiris said during his first

visit with the community theater group. "I would like to come to more

rehearsals. It's more interesting to come to several [rehearsals] to

see how much further they've gone."

Chakiris got involved when he received a letter from Hoover High

School, asking if he would like to get involved with the production.

After asking Chakiris to sign an autograph, Ken Areki asked him

for advice.

"He said to keep it real and keep it honest," Areki said.

The Stepping Stone Players is a nonprofit group based in Glendale

that produces shows each September. The company performed "Annie"

last year.

The group's show begins Friday at 7 p.m. in Hoover High School's

auditorium, 651 Glenwood Rd. Performances run through Sept. 26, at 7

p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Performances on

Sept. 19 and 26 will also feature American Sign Language

interpretation.

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